Victoria Philharmonic Choir opens its season of Peace and Calm with Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Giacomo Puccini’s Messa Di Gloria.
English composer Williams always held onto his belief that music was a way to preserve civilization, even in humanity’s darkest times. While we can only speculate on how he’d feel about the state of the world in 2017, a hundred years ago he was experiencing the darkness first-hand, carrying the wounded in his ambulance on the battlefields of WW1.
The VPC, conducted by Peter Butterfield, opens its 2017-2018 season with Williams’ heart-rending cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem, inspired by the composer’s own experiences, and composed in 1936 just as forces were gathering for another world war. The work is set to poetry by Walt Whitman, (who had been a nurse in the American Civil War), parts of the Catholic mass, and quotes from the Book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible. The power of the orchestration brings the sound of battle right into the concert hall, but the work ends with a whispered plea for hope and optimism.
The second half of the program is Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, which was written as his music school graduation exercise in 1876, when the composer was just 18. It’s an exuberant, even theatrical setting of a full Mass, with a joyous Gloria and several other beautiful melodies that foreshadow Puccini’s operas that were to come. The theme from the Agnus Dei movement, for example, reappears just over a decade later in Manon Lescaut.
The concert at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall features a very large orchestra that includes members of the Victoria Symphony, and soloists: Canadian/British soprano Eve Daniell, bass Gary Relyea, baritone Andrew Greenwood, and tenor Nolan Kehler. Ms. Daniell was a soloist in the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms (2016) singing in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. Mr. Kehler is not only a tenor in opera productions, but a drummer in a variety of indie bands. Andrew Greenwood has appeared with Pacific Opera, and in VPC concerts including Handel’s Theodora and Verdi’s Requiem. Gary Relyea has enjoyed an international career, and was featured in the VPC production of the Mozart Requiem in 2016.
The concert is Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. in the Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Tickets are $30 regular, $15 for students, available at the Alix Goolden Box Office, 900 Johnson St., online at Ticketfly.com (service charges apply) and at Ivy’s Bookshop, Munro’s Books and Tanner’s Books. Children 13 and younger do not require advance tickets, and will be admitted free at the door.
For more information, please visit vpchoir.ca.